Climate Assessment Reports

This hugely important report from 12 US government agencies was released at a time when people were preoccupied with Thanksgiving holidays, some believe, in order to minimise its  impact. It has dire conclusions about the impact of climate change on the US economy but appears to remain firmly within the ‘economic growth is good’ paradigm.

“Scientists have understood the fundamental physics of climate change for almost 200 years. In the 1850s, researchers demonstrated that carbon dioxide and other naturally occurring greenhouse gases in the atmosphere prevent some of the heat radiating from Earth’s surface from escaping to space: this is known as the greenhouse effect. This natural greenhouse effect warms the planet’s surface about 60°F above what it would be otherwise, creating a habitat suitable for life. Since the late 19th century, however, humans have released an increasing amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and, to a lesser extent, deforestation and land-use change. As a result, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to human-caused warming, has increased by about 40% over the industrial era. This change has intensified the natural greenhouse effect, driving an increase in global surface temperatures and other widespread changes in Earth’s climate that are unprecedented in the history of modern civilization.”

Here  is a short introduction by a journalist to the report.

Here ‘Resilience’ summarises the impacts studied in the report

And here is the US President’s response to the report

A similar report for Europe Climate Impacts on Economy (European Commission)- impacts examined: Coastal floods; River floods; Droughts; Agriculture; Energy; Transport; Water resources; Habitat loss; Forest fires; Labour productivity; Mortality due to heatwaves.

And a UN Report on the Emissions Gap- a tripling of cuts to CO2 emissions is needed

Three chilling conclusions from the NCA

Predicted regional impact of climate change on US regions

WMO Reports record high GHGs

This BBC article summarises a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation that has been released shortly before the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice. The report shows no slowing in the concentrations of CO2 (405 ppm in 2017), methane, NO2 in the atmosphere and also reveals new concerns about CH11 a gas that was banned due to its effects on the ozone layer as well as global warming. These GHGs (greenhouse gases) are now at levels not seen since 3 to 5 million years ago when earth temperatures were 2C degrees higher and sea levels 10-20 metres higher.

And here the BBC reports (with video)  on how China is building coal-powered electricity power stations all around the world. The article details and example in Serbia.

The Carbon Gap is here explained –  about the difference between what is needed and what is promised by 2030 – 12 years from now.

Politicians promote economy over environment

This article looks at the failure of politicians to take a systemic view that connects economic activity and consumer preferences with effects on the environment. The politicians seem to favour economic ‘progress’ despite unfavourable, now extremely serious and destructive effects on the support systems provided by the natural world for human society. Easter island is used as a previous example of the collapse of an economic system that destroyed its environmental support system. Pro-environment US President Jimmy Carter proved unable to beat Reagan who, like Trump, promised to “make America great again”. The author uses meat eating’s global effects on climate as a current issue that politicians are afraid to face.

“…democracy has never been very good at tackling the global issue of environmental degradation. Instead politicians often go to great lengths to avoid the topic. When they do engage, they do so begrudgingly, putting all their rigour into a division of responsibility that excuses themselves to the greatest extent.

On the whole, democracies are dominated by chronic short term decision making. And while they often act as safeguards to individual human liberties, democracy, and its preference for compromise, are often part of the problem when it comes to the environment – the biggest issue of them all.

Politicians avoid the reality that only immediate alterations to human behaviour can prevent this crisis. Put simply, the planet urgently needs more compassion for the environment and much less individual ego.”

A further illustration of economics trumping environment relates to the needed transformation of farming: 

“It is widely agreed that today’s global agriculture system is a social and environmental failure. Business as usual is no longer an option: biodiversity loss and nitrogen pollution are exceeding planetary limits, and catastrophic risks of climate change demand immediate action.

Most concede that there is an urgent need to radically transform our food systems. But the proposed innovations for more sustainable food systems are drastically different. Which we choose will have long-lasting effects on human society and the planet.

Suggested innovations in food systems can be broadly understood as either seeking to conform with – or to transform – the status quo.”

After outlining the contrasts between fossil-fuel-drive, industrialised, financialised, corporate high-tech agriculture and regenerative localised agroecological farming, the authors ask:

“Do you want to live in a world in which artificial food is produced by intelligent robots and corporations that put profits before people? Or one where agroecological innovations ensure we can nourish ourselves and our communities in a fair, ecologically regenerative, and culturally rich way?”